Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In our neck of the woods

Well, thought I'd give an update on the stuff that's going on in our neck of the woods (as well as a slew of gratuitously adorable pictures of Alyson - you really ought to expect that by now).

Alyson has discovered technology, and she loves it in any of its forms - maybe since she sees us doing stuff with it - it must be cool. Remote controls, cell phones, cameras or anything with a battery are her new found love. Oh, books too - she loves books. Ours, hers, anybody's books are fascinating. That actually makes me really happy and she's only ended up with one papercut so far.

Alyson's now reliably rolling herself from her back to her front and loves doing it. The funny part about it is that she sometimes (actually most of the time) forgets that she can reverse the action and put herself back on her back again. She'll start looking at us like "Ok, now fix it". She'll get it down and then we'll really be in trouble. She's starting to sit up a little now. Not really what you can call sitting up because most of the time she's leaning on her hands and there is a boppy pillow behind her to catch her, but she's loving it.

We're also starting to help her learn how to eat "solid" foods. Of course stage one solids are not very solid at all, but they're considerably more solid than what she's used to. The cutest little faces were the result of trying peaches first. I don't know that I caught any of them on camera, so you'll have to take my word for it. Below is a video of her eating peaches with her Daddy. She's already a little pro!
Once she got used to peaches, we introduced her to rice ceral with bananas. Boy does she love that! She actually chases the spoon down to get it faster in her mouth - so cute. She's still teething pretty hard core sometimes, but no teeth yet. I still don't think it's fair that babies have to go through that, but fortunately, they won't remember it.

video

Here, Alyson is sleep playing - such a trooper - she's dedicated, then she consented to help me with the laundry - what would I do without her? I'm frankly amazaed that 2 1/2 people (this is where Erik corrects me - yes, Alyson is a full person) can make so much laundry in one week!

Well, what else can I say? We're blessed and we know it - we love and miss everyone!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Welcome to the Bonus Room


Well, Erik has been hard at work to finish our bonus room. Alyson is continuing to grow very quickly so we look forward to having a fun place for her to play.

Erik has done everything on this room. He
*  Designed the electrical wiring with the advice of a friend at work who makes that his profession.
*  He designed the fancy closet that will hide the wires from the television so that we'll just have a nice clean wall with the TV on it. Next to that closet, there will be a little alcove for a shelving system to hold the entertainment technology (DVD player, etc), a mini fridge and a microwave.
*  Framed out the closet, the window seat, fed the tubing and duct work for heating and cooling, and all sorts of things I really don't have a clue about.

He's put a lot of thought into it. He's even got it all set up so that the computer can have an additional screen which will be the big screen TV all the way across the room! That'll be fun for movies if we decide to go with the online movie rental service and for birthdays with slideshows and all that jazz.

These pictures show him and a friend hanging the drywall for the ceiling. After that of that planning and groundwork, he was planning on insulating the walls, hanging sheetrock, texturizing, painting and carpeting.

Unfortunately, the accident that we had a few weeks ago (see previous post) left us both with whiplash and crooked backs. He woke up last Friday having pain when he tried to draw deep breath, so that's where that ended.

A coworker's husband is hanging our drywall, finishing and painting our bonus room for us. There will still be plenty to do, but we'll be glad to have that large portion of the project completed.

I'll post more pictures once the room is finally complete and we're enjoying it (or sooner if I can't control myself - I am my mother's daughter after all and therefore a paparazzo in my spare time - just ask my mother's granddaughter.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

Well, Alyson's paternal grandparents Grammy and Grumpy came to visit from March 19 - 31. It was their 35th wedding anniversary and together, their children decided that they'd send them here to meet their youngest grand daughter. We're actually pretty lucky because either I forgot or didn't realize in the first place that it was going to be a surprise. I'm glad I didn't spoil it - I didn't call for their travel arrangements until after Julie already knew about it. Go to her blog to read the story - it's pretty funny (http://www.justjuliesjottings.blogspot.com/). At any rate, while here, they got to meet their newest (and cutest in my biased opinion) granddaughter. While they were here, they were able to go to the temple where they were able to serve in the unique way of helping to clean it - and the next day were happy to go to a session. The Saturday right before Easter, the child care center that takes care of Alyson hosted an Easter Egg Hunt. The Easter bunny was there and Alyson even got a couple of eggs! We of course told her later that day what the holiday really is about, but Alyson sure did like all of the pretty colors and the cool people she met at the hunt.


The other really cool thing (other than hanging out of course) that we did while they were here was to go on a road trip.


Alyson did a great job, I'll start off by saying - but once she was mad, she was mad. More to come on that later. We decided to try for a loop - go South to follow the Columbia River Gorge - beautiful country! Wow, how pretty. We stopped first at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Dam. They have this really cool system of helping several species maintain their stock. Since the dam blocks the salmon's natural route to their homeland when they run, they've also created a special way for them to get to the other side by way of a fish ladder. It serves to safely convey them to the high side of the river so that they can continue on their journey. There are several fish ladders on the Columbia river, but I have only seen the Bonneville ladder. There's also a cool viewing place where you can see the fish underwater if they're running. Next to the underwater viewing windows, there's a door with all sorts of signs on it about not disturbing the fish counter. I bet they're just really in there playing tetris or something. :)


After the fish hatchery and dam - oh, I almost forgot the sturgeon! If you've never seen a sturgeon, you should try to make the effort. If you have a Cabella's near you, they may have one in their special tanks. They're basically the biggest fish I've ever seen, however I guess I've never seen a shark so I don't know. They get hugh! There are really strict guidelines on fishing them - they have to be between like 6 and 8 feet for you to keep them because they're either too young, or they're the breeding stock. That's significant if you ask me, but then I'm not a professional fisher...


Ok, try again. After the dam and fish hatchery, we made our way to Multnomah Falls. Wow - that's breathtaking. It's one of the longest free falling waterfalls in North America. There's a little bridge a short way up that is an easy hike. You can actually hike the entire way up - just make sure that you take it slowly or are in shape or like me, you'll be whining about 1/3 of the way up. We didn't actually go all the way up this time. Erik and I went down about a month after we moved here and I think it was actually a combination of the speed we took and my general flabbiness that contributed to my overall state of mind. We made it though - there's a viewing place up there where you can get really close to the edge and feel the water moving near you. It's king of humbling actually, because there are signs all over the place about it not being a place to play - swimming is absoloutely prohibited since if you were to get swept away, there'd be no stopping you. Several years ago, a huge rock that weighed the size of a bus filled with cement fell off the top and caused a tidal wave that soaked a wedding party. It's pretty funny since no one was hurt. Anyway, it was beautiful. Julie, Erik and I "hiked" up to the little bridge and Bob and Alyson stayed down below to take a picture of us.



This is Alyson's picture of us on the bridge.


It was a little chilly, so we got back to the car to warm up at that point. Our plan from there was to possibly stay the night in Portland, head up the next morning to Mount St. Helen's to see Johnston's Observatory where you can actually look down to see the dome inside of the crater. After that, we'd wind our way through the mountains to go to Leavenworth - a little Bavarian town nestled in the trees. These were our plans at least. As it happened, the weather was a little overcast and we'd been in and out of rain so we weren't sure we'd even be able to see anything at Johnston's Observatory.

We decided to keep driving and see what we could see. It wasn't very late yet, so we decided to drive past Portland (only about 1/2 hour from the falls) and headed instead to Astoria where one of the longest bridges in the USA is (I'm talking about miles long, but we'll get to that part of the story soon). It was dark by the time we got there so when we first got on the bridge to see what it was like, we couldn't really tell how long it was going to be. Frankly I think it was good that I couldn't see very well - I think I really would have had the willies much worse than I did. There were some beautiful barges on the water that made it really pretty and so after we got over the really tall hump in the bridge (designed to let the boats pass through) we got to the long part. And we watched while we drove. And we watched. And we watched - and I tell you what, but the shore just wasn't coming any closer - talk about being stuck in the twilight zone! We finally got across to the other side (4.1 miles later) and stopped at a little rest stop called "Dismal Nitch" to try to decide what to do next. It was one of the only places in their whole trip that Lewis and Clark decided to note was very dangerous - they were trapped there for more than a week because of the weather once. We decided to go back over the bridge to stay the night in Astoria. Well we didn't realize (not currently being in school ourselves and not having school aged children) that it was currently Spring Break. The first few hotels we stopped at were full, but we finally came across two that we could choose between. One was a Best Western, the other a Red Lion. Well, they were about the same price and the Red Lion was actually a Motel - with the doors on the outside rather than secured in hallways. We opted for the more secure location and checked ourselves in. Poor Erik, he had to go back to the car about 4 times because I kept forgetting things. He didn't mind though, the main lobby had a tv on with the March Madness playing. Alyson slept fairly well considering it was an unfamiliar place with lots less light than she is used to, but we all did well and had a yummy breakfast the next morning. Oh and a note about those hot breakfasts they provide in the morning: I thought logically to myself that if the hours of breakfast are from 6 to 10 am, they will be well provisioned for that entire time. Wrong! Maybe it was (as the attendant kept telling people) that they were surprised by the amount of people that came for spring break and were therefore less than prepared, maybe they were just trying to save money and only had a specific amount of food that they were allowed to put out each day. At any rate, by the time Julie and I made it downstairs for breakfast (the menfolk had already taken the baby down) there was no more sausage (alright by me) and very few biscuits for the biscuits and gravy. We were lucky however to get good breakfast and find a table and chairs at which we could eat. Alyson slept while we ate and Erik and his dad got gas for the car. While we were leaving, a lady that had spoken to Erik earlier came by to tell me in her English accent that Alyson was just "exquisite". Yep, exquisite - she said the word three times! I told her that we completely agree. She had previously told Erik that she thought her grown kids were beautiful but that Alyson just blows them out of the water. yeah well, we tried.


We now come to the point in the story where we move on (as I'm sure you're glad). It was cloudy, overcast and drippy as we approached the 4.1 mile long bridge. At the beginning, there's a great big hump that allows boats and barges to pass through underneath. After you pass this, you head down, down, down it looks like straight into the water. A very creepy thing I found out after we got back is that though the humped portions of the bridge are fixed and stationary, the long long part floats on the water. I think if I'd know that before I would have really had a case of the willies, but as it was, it was very cool. Actually, having the long straight part float is pretty cool when I think about it, just not when I think about myself on it.

After we got to the other side (several minutes later) we headed toward the coast passing through Desperation Point (or some other name that was equally appealing). The beach was very cool. You come upon it suddenly in this little town that's actually growing pretty rapidly (go figure) and you can drive right up to it - on it if you have 4 wheel drive. The sand was black with no clay in it - it didn't even stick to the side of the cup that Julie used to scoop some. It was pretty cold there and Alyson was getting bored, so we didn't stay long.


After we left the beach, we headed for Johnston's Observatory on Mount St. Helens. We didn't get as far as we'd hoped because of the weather. This beautiful snow had effectively rendered the road for the lack of a better word - closed. Upon finding this bit of information out, we decided to head home. Leavenworth will have to wait for another trip - it'll still be there.


On the way home, we got to see the beautiful sites we'd seen the way there, but in reverse. Alyson started getting a little fussy at this point - maybe she was disappointed that she didn't get to see into Mt. St. Helens - maybe she was just bored with looking at the same expanse of chair or maybe her little bum was falling asleep. At any rate, we stopped a couple of times to let her out to see around and drive for a while.

The last leg of our journey was just as eventful as the first. We saw the mountain goats we'd been peeling our eyes for. At first we saw just one and then as Erik predicted, suddenly we were able to see them almost everywhere. Well maybe not everywhere, but we did see about 14 all in one bunch just hangin' out on the side of a mountain. Too bad the picture is so far away they just look like brown rocks. Ah well. The other item of interest is that even with the rain, snow and slush, Daddy was able to get us back to the Tri-Cities in safety where we were promptly rear ended at a red light. We were pushed into the car ahead of us which was also full of a family with their kids. The guy that hit us had the nerve to say that it must have been our faults because we were stopped at what he called a green light. Well it was not green, but even if it had been, he clearly was not leaving enough following distance if he was unable to stop in time. The police officers agreed - all several million of them that showed up. After the paperwork portion of the police's visit (where I forgot my address) we were finally able to get home and relax in our own beds and we all slept well. We were only a little sore at the time (my neck was stiff for several days since I was in the middle back with no head rest) and our backs are a little sore. Alyson took it very well. She was scared, but as soon as I was snuggling her, she was fine. Erik did a great job getting us home even with the bump. We were grateful that Grammy and Grumpy were able to come visit and can't wait to see them and the rest of Alyson's family again!!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Pictures from Preschool

Alyson reading and supported by a doubled up "Boppy" pillow.

Alyson inspecting the keys. Yep, they're good.


Miss Beverly reading to Alyson and her classmate Stella. (Alyson's the little bitty one in pink).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mmmm, Baklava

Well, right now, my kitchen is filled with the lovely scent of baklava. We're having a Greek themed potluck at work today and since I didn't realize that Fillo Dough is frozen when you buy it, I couldn't make it last night. Consequently, this morning at 4:30 after feeding and putting Alyson back to bed, I assembled and baked my Baklava. It really wasn't hard at all, and didn't take as long as I thought it'd take. I got a little confused by the instructions, so I think some of the layers are wrong, but it'll still taste good. I also cut the diamonds too big, but I hardly think anyone will complain (unless of course it's the person that doesn't get one...). I got the recipe from http://www.allrecipes.com/ which is my alltime favorite recipe website. It provides dietary information, you can scale it to your needs and as a user, you can review and rate the recipe. This one was rated 5 out of 5 stars by 644 members. I can understand why-man it smells good. The recipe with it's reviews, ratings and other information can be viewed at: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Baklava/Detail.aspx but for ease of use, I've included it below as well as a picture of my finished product. Sorry, no samples though.

Baklava
Submitted by: Neonwillie
Yields: 18 servings

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough (some come in 2 8 oz packages - you'll need both)
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
2. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
3. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
4. Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
5. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.
Allrecipes.com 4/1/2008



I'll have to let you know how it turns out after work. I'll be leaving a piece for Erik, so maybe if he tastes it and wants to give his input, he'll tell us - otherwise, you'll just have to trust me and the other cooks that tried it on Allrecipes.

:)